One of the largest poker machine venues in Australia has shifted gambling profits amounting to more than AU$26 million over an eight-year period to its parent company – a club from the National Rugby League (NRL) – while making claims that it has allocated the payments as a community benefit to receive a tax cut.
New South Wales (NSW) clubs that donate part of their gambling profits to various community causes are subject to tax concession under the ClubsGrants scheme which allows local clubs to get a tax break if they use profits generated from poker machines to pay off their own operating costs or the costs of an associated entity.
The ClubsGrants scheme, however, is being currently reviewed by the State Government following years of criticism and claims that the scheme has been a shameless and dishonest act that has to be immediately ceased.
Since 2014/2015, the Canterbury leagues club, which had a total of 634 pokies as of May 31st, has paid the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (which is its holding entity) AU$26.4 million. The payments which were described as initiatives supporting community development are legal and in line with the rules. According to the financial statements of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, the money received by the NRL club in the form of monetary contributions was significantly larger than the amount spent on non-affiliated local community groups under the aforementioned scheme.
In 2022, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs reported an AU$10-million consolidated entity profit after tax. In 2021, the consolidated entity profit was AU$4.5 million, while a year earlier it was worth AU$4.4 million.
Registered NSW Clubs Required to Make Contributions to Community Services
According to official guidelines, the ClubGrants scheme was specially designed to make sure that the largest registered clubs in the state would make contributions to a variety of community services and help the disadvantaged people there.
In 2022, the NSW Council for Social Service decided to leave its long-time association with the ClubGrants programme behind following a review that identified potential conflicts of interest. Furthermore, it was alleged that the scheme no longer reflected the standards and expectations of the community.
The chief executive officer of Wesley Mission, the Reverend Stu Cameron, who is currently part of the expert panel considering and discussing a gambling reform at the State Government of New South Wales, explained that the payments were legal but illustrated perfectly what is organically wrong with the ClubGrants scheme. According to him, those funds could have been used to help many people in the community deal with the constantly increasing cost of living.
Mr Cameron acknowledged the fact that the Canterbury Leagues Club had made financial contributions to a large number of local initiatives aimed at improving the living standards of low-income and disadvantaged people. However, he argued that the amounts allocated by the fund were disproportionate to the financial support received by the prosperous National Rugby League club.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.